Cancer resurfaces for Van Wieren
Former Braves broadcaster undergoing treatment for lymphoma
ATLANTA -- Legendary Braves broadcaster Pete Van Wieren has vowed that he will be at Turner Field for next year's home opener. But before making his preparations for the 2011 season, he will have to once again deal with the mental and physical fatigue created by his battle against cutaneous B-Cell lymphoma.
Van Wieren was first diagnosed with lymphoma around the beginning of this year after finding a rash on the top of his head. Courtesy of a few rounds of chemotherapy treatment, he found himself cancer-free until about a month ago, when he located a couple of rashes and bumps on his back and leg.
Once biopsies showed the lymphoma had returned, doctors prescribed a more aggressive six-week chemotherapy treatment that Van Wieren began last week. The 66-year-old former broadcaster said there have already been some signs of improvement. More importantly, it appears the cancer has remained relegated to his skin and hasn't entered his lymph nodes.
"They're still pretty confident they can get it," Van Wieren said. "This is certainly not what I planned to do when I retired."
When Van Wieren ended his 33-season career as a Braves broadcaster after the 2008 campaign, he envisioned traveling the world with his wife and having more time to watch his grandchildren grow. Those opportunities have been interrupted by these radiation treatments that until a month ago seemed to be a part of his past.
Van Wieren said he first noticed the spots on his back around the same time that he served as the emcee for the Bobby Cox Tribute that was staged at Turner Field before the Oct. 2 game against the Phillies.
"It's a bummer," Van Wieren said. "It's certainly not fun. I'm going to get through it. I will be there for Opening Day next year."
When Van Wieren retired two years ago, he said his decision wasn't solely based on the fact that just two months earlier, he had dealt with the painful passing of his longtime friend and broadcast partner Skip Caray. The two joined the Braves broadcast team together in 1976 and became two of the most identifiable figures in the organization during the days that Braves games were beamed to a national audience on TBS. They were both inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2004.
But Van Wieren admitted that Caray's passing did reinforce his belief that he didn't want to continue handling the daily duties of a long baseball season until he reached a point where he was unable to enjoy other facets of life.
While obviously distraught about the fact that he once again finds himself battling cancer, Van Wieren's spirit and passion for baseball still appears bright. He is excited about to see former Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur compete in this year's World Series and is predicting that Francoeur's Rangers will prove superior to the Giants in the Fall Classic.
At the same time, Van Wieren is already looking forward to the opportunity to overcome this latest battle and once again have the chance to fulfill his passion to compete in poker tournaments.
"As soon as I'm done with this, I'm going back to Tunica [Miss.] and the poker tables," Van Wieren said. "I can guarantee you that."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.